Giveaways and Promotions on Facebook: What’s Allowed?

Update (8/27/2013): There’s been an update to Facebook promotional guidelines <– read all about it! 

Maybe you’ve read over Facebook’s promotions guidelines. Maybe you tried reading them, but got scared by the “lawyer speak”. Since Facebook revised these guidelines a month ago, there has been a lot of back and forth on what’s allowed and what isn’t.

Some folks say that these recent guideline changes are in favor for Facebook page admins in relation to what they were like a few years ago… I tend to agree. Believe it or not, Facebook promotions have been able to only be run on 3rd party apps on a canvas page or a page tab for over a year – this isn’t a recent update.

Let’s break down the eight rules of Facebook’s promotion guidelines one by one. After each rule, we’ll explain it in simple terms:

Rule 1: Promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on Facebook.com, either on a Canvas Page or an app on a Page Tab.

If you run a promotion on Facebook, use a canvas page or a page tab, which is a page that can be linked to under your page’s profile picture. You can do this by using a 3rd party app, whether that be a specific sweepstakes application, or an iFrame app which allows you to host HTML-based landing pages in the tab.

*If you’d like to use Rafflecopter to run promotions on Facebook, we have an official Facebook giveaway app now available.

Rule 2: Promotions on Facebook must include the following:

  1. A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant.
  2. Acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.
  3. Disclosure that the participant is providing information to [disclose recipient(s) of information] and not to Facebook.

Facebook doesn’t want to be held liable for anything that might happen due to your promotion. To best follow rule two, include a few sentences in your promotions. We recommend: “This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability.”

Rule 3: You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism.  For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.

You can’t have a promotion where you automatically enter someone into it when they like your page unknowing to them. If you walked into Taco Bell and we’re automatically entered into a sweepstakes where you could win 100 Tacos a day for a year without you knowing, how would that make you feel? (well, I guess that’s not the best example, depending on who you are :))

Rule 4: You must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app.  For example, you must not condition registration or entry upon the user liking a Wall post, or commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall.

You can have someone “like” your page or check in to a location to enter your promotion, but that’s it. You can’t force them to like a wall post, post a newsfeed, invite friends, update their status, etc. You can ask them nicely to help share your promotion, but you cannot require them to, or give them added incentive to.

Rule 5: You must not use Facebook features or functionality, such as the Like button, as a voting mechanism for a promotion.

This rule could get a little confusing, but what this means is that you can’t have the like button act as the way to gather votes. A common example: you cannot say “the picture with the most likes wins. vote on your favorite picture by clicking the like button underneath the picture of your choice”. That’s against Facebook’s guidelines. Don’t confuse this with rule 4 – you can still have people “like” your page to enter a contest or sweepstakes. Using it in this regard isn’t illegal because there’s no voting associated with the like button.

Rule 6: You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles or Pages.

Again, Facebook doesn’t want to be held liable. Notify winners by email, phone, twitter, in person, whatever. Just don’t let Facebook catch you notifying the winner on their platform. You can however post something like “Everyone give congrats to John Smith for winning our $50 gift card promotion!”

Rule 7: You may not use Facebook’s name, trademarks, trade names, copyrights, or any other intellectual property in connection with a promotion or mention Facebook in the rules or materials relating to the promotion, except as needed to fulfill your obligations under Section 2.

Don’t call the sweepstakes “Our Awesome Facebook Sweepstakes” or “The Rafflecopter $20 Facebook Giveaway”. Don’t associate your giveaway with Facebook when you can.

Rule 8: Definitions:

  1. By “administration” we mean the operation of any element of the promotion, such as collecting entries, conducting a drawing, judging entries, or notifying winners.
  2. By “communication” we mean promoting, advertising or referencing a promotion in any way on Facebook, e.g., in ads, on a Page, or in a Wall post.
  3. By “contest” or “competition” we mean a promotion that includes a prize of monetary value and a winner determined on the basis of skill (i.e., through judging based on specific criteria).
  4. By “sweepstakes” we mean a promotion that includes a prize of monetary value and a winner selected on the basis of chance.

Not really a rule, just some definitions. Fairly straightforward – explains their definitions of “administration”, “communication”, “contest”, “competition”, and “sweepstakes”.

To sum it up, these rules are in place to make sure that you know that Facebook doesn’t want to be held liable for anything that could result due to your giveaway. If you break any of these rules above, Facebook could be dragged into something that they don’t want to be. If you have a virtual milk chugging contest on your Facebook page and a participant gets hospitalized, Facebook doesn’t want to be held responsible.

Everyone wants to run promotions on Facebook. Many folks still break the rules though. So just how risky is it to step outside the guidelines? There are always risks involved. While we don’t suggest you break the rules, I’ll set up two scenarios:

Suppose you have a Facebook page called “My Magical Postcard Corner” based around postcard collectors that is running a giveaway to your 225 fans. You’re running it by asking users to upload photos of their favorite postcard onto your wall. The photos are then collected into an album, and the photo that gathers the most “likes” wins a prize – ten postcards from my postcard collection. I’ve even found a way to reward users more votes for their photo every time they share it on Facebook. I contact the winner through a Facebook message and mail them ten of my postcards via snail mail. Almost everything about this contest I ran was against Facebook promotions guidelines. However, with 225 fans on Facebook and a harmless prize, it would be unusual to see Facebook take action and ban my page because I broke their rules.

Now pretend you’re a backyard trampoline company (you probably see where I’m going). You have over 100,000 fans on Facebook and for sake of argument, fifteen competing trampoline retailers who have between 5,000 and 90,000 fans follow you very closely and wouldn’t mind if you were to “disappear”. If you run a contest where you ask your fans to upload user generated videos of them performing acrobatics , the chances that you’ll be banned is high. Your competitors would jump on the opportunity to report this to Facebook. It’s a no-brainer for Facebook to shut you down. You’re breaking the rules, and it’s only a matter of time before someone who gets injured in filming a video comes after you with a lawsuit, dragging Facebook into it.

When Facebook asks you to keep your promotions on canvas pages and 3rd party apps, its because its the best way for Facebook to allow pages to run promotions on Facebook while keeping them at a distance.

Is it legal to force someone to ‘like’ your page before entering a contest?

Forcing someone to “like” your page before entering a promotion is completely legal. Rule 4 above states that “you must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a page or checking into a place.” As we stated above, you can force someone to “like” you or check in to enter, but you can’t force them to like a wall post, post a newsfeed, invite friends, update their status, etc.

Are Facebook wall promotions still legal?

Any “wall promotion” you see is not legal. A wall promotion includes posting a question on a wall post and the first person to comment with the right answer wins. It also includes any contest where photos are uploaded directly to the wall rather than a third party application. Basically, any type of contest that requires commenting on or responding to items that could be found in the news feed. However, if you enter a contest, and then are presented the entrant to share the giveaway by their own free will, that’s fine. Again, this is to protect Facebook.

What about giving away a product once I hit ‘x’ amount of fans?

You are allowed to announce to your fans that you’re having a sweepstakes or a contest once you reach a certain amount of ‘likes’. Just make sure that the contest follows all the rules above.

If I give the folks who are entering in a giveaway run on Facebook the option to ‘share a post’ on Facebook for an additional entry, is that permitted?

Nope – not allowed. This would be conditioning an entry based on a share, making it illegal.

What if the giveaway is being run somewhere else other than Facebook (for example, on your blog)?

If you’re running it on your blog, and you may be able to get away with it.

You might not be happy with the rules. They probably could be more cut and dry. But did you know that 18 months ago, Facebook required you to get written approval to run promotions. The only way to get written approval was to have an account rep. The only way to get an account rep was to spend $10K on advertising on Facebook. Bummer! Back then, Facebook also asked to notify your account rep 7 days prior to running a promotion. So on the bright side, at least the rules in place now aren’t as unrealistic as they used to be.

With this new found understanding of Facebook rules and regulations, run your Facebook promotions with more confidence and don’t worry about if you’re breaking any rules. Instead, interact with your fans and have fun! That’s what it’s all about.

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About the author

Greg Goodson

Greg Goodson is the cofounder of Rafflecopter, the world's easiest way to run a giveaway online. Follow his shenanigans, ramblings, and memes on Twitter at @GregGoodson.

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  • Mrs. Cox

    Thank you for breaking it down for us. It’s nice to have a clear explanation!!

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  • http://twitter.com/BellyCharms Sonya M

    Great post.  I am sharing this one now on facebook!
     

  • Rebecca

    Thank you for adding this, I had recently heard “buzz” that it was no long allowed to run giveaways on Facebook, thank you for clarifying it (as much as I could, I understood most of it). 

    • http://www.rafflecopter.com Greg Goodson

      Yeah – a lot of the buzz going around has been different folk’s interpretations of Facebook promotion rules. Hopefully this helped clarify the dos and donts :)

  • http://www.slopswap.com Dawn

    Thank you!! This does clear up a lot!

  • http://www.marilyngardiner.com Marilyn Gardiner

    Thank you so much!

  • Tiffany C.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • NaturalHairLatinaReddick

    Thank you for sharing

  • Victoria

    Just a quick question-are you allowed to sell using your FB page ,wher fans comment SOLD under a pic and then send you an email? Or would you have to use a shop app?

    • http://www.rafflecopter.com Greg Goodson

      That’s a good question – I’m not sure if I know the answer to that. I’m not too familiar with the terms and conditions of selling on Facebook. My gut tells me that you should probably look into a shop app.

  • http://www.motherofpearlitis.com/ Tree a.k.a Mother of Pearl

    I love the breakdown! Definitely much clearer than the way it was originally stated by Facebook. :) Thanks!

  • Craftyhobbiesuk

    thanks , thats cleared that upfor me then !

  • Rainey Shafer

    This was a lot of great info… Very well written. Thanks for translating “lawyer speak”. I read every word carefully! Thank you so much!

  • The Jacobsen Family

    Thank you for explaining this in terms I can understand! I will be changing a few things on my giveaways now. =)

  • http://cafescrapper-scrapsoflife.blogspot.com SusieQTpies

    Thanks for posting. I’ve actually shared such info with other bloggers and businesses and most of them tell me to mind my own business. lol I’m just wanting to protect their page from getting taken down but they think I’m jealous of what they are doing or just being bossy. Really? No I’m not the Facebook Police, just being a friend. I’m going to share your page and hopefully people will take notice. They have been warned.

    Thanks and I love Rafflecopter, btw.

    • http://www.rafflecopter.com Greg Goodson

      Thanks Susie :) And to your point, we see brands and bloggers running Facebook giveaways that break the rules on a daily basis.

      Feel free to share this post… we’re glad you’re enjoying Rafflecopter :)

  • Jodi

    Great info Greg.  Learn somthin’ new every day!  :)

  • http://www.savingsinseconds.com Dianna

    This is so helpful—-I really appreciate you taking the time to put it in English this way!!  :)

  • Diane Hidey

    Thanks!!

  • http://profiles.google.com/dwalline Diane W

    Thank you!

  • Chris

    Getting conflicting info. A blogger who has talked directly with Facebook executives is saying that even the feature built into Rafflecopter to “like” a page is against FB’s TOS; http://www.bloggingbasics101.com/2011/07/running-a-successful-facebook-giveaway-or-contest/#comment-6951

    Can you verify that Facebook has said that this feature is legal? Thanks.

    • Amber

      No it clearly states you are allowed to like The PAGE just not a Post of the giveaway you are doing on that page!! So if you had your giveaway posted to your Facebook account and it say please like share and comment that is NOT allowed!! But liking your page is.. does that make sense??

  • http://twitter.com/MyMotheringPath Chante

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Jeanine

    GREAT POST ! Much needed clarification!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Brenda.Godwin.McAfee Brenda McAfee

    Can you explain how raffles work on FB?

  • Glenni Lorick

    This is why I love Rafflecopter…you guys rock!

  • Ruby

    Thank you very much for your excellent advice! I just corrected my competition so that it complies with the rules. I did not know any of this information and I am so grateful that you have shared it with us.

  • http://twitter.com/edgardojimenez Edgardo E. Jiménez

    Is there any mechanism on Facebook to report Pages that are running illegal or invalid promotions? They seem to be everywhere.

    • Dana

      Man, I wish!

    • Tim

      And what purpose would that serve you to report them? Just sounds like an a$$hole move to me if they aren’t hurting anyone.

  • http://www.theluckyladybug.net/ Cheryl Free

    Have you read Running a Successful Facebook Giveaway or Contest (Updated!)?  It totally disagrees with a lot of what you’re saying here.

    The blogger contacted a Facebook representative who agreed with her points of view in the article.

    • Marie

      Cheryl, I’ve also read the blog post you mentioned, however I also know that people who have contacted Facebook have gotten confusing and conflicting answers so that does not definitely settle the question. In my view, Rafflecopter meets the requirement of being a “third party app” to legitimately run a contest or promotion. As long as liking a Facebook page is an additional entry, then that seems to be within guidelines. Why? Because the Rafflecopter itself IS the entry form itself. At Blogging Basics 101 Melanie writes “You must use the third party application to provide an entry form. This ensures that the entrant actually wants to enter your promotion.” Again, Rafflecopter takes care of this. If they are using Rafflecopter, then they are officially entering. Asking for a Facebook like is just an additional entry.

  • http://www.theluckyladybug.net/ Cheryl Free

    This topic has piqued my interest and I’m still doing lots of research.  I’ve bookmarked a slew of articles and will probably publish my own before long.

    Anyhow, the best article I’ve read so far says:

    “FB promotion guidelines are very clear that the mere act of liking a
    page is a violation of the promotion guidelines. For promotions using
    3rd party apps that are ‘like gated’, an entrant would need to ‘like’
    the page first and then proceed to the entry registration. It’s a
    2-step process when the promotion is run using a 3rd party app through
    the Facebook page.

    If you are not using a 3rd party app and instead hosting the
    promotion on your blog, with regard to Facebook promotion guidelines the
    act of clicking ‘like’ as a means of entry is prohibited. Again, a
    2-step process would be required – the ‘like’ and then returning back to
    your blog to somehow designate that they ‘like’ the requisite Facebook
    page.”

    -and-

    “You are correct that asking for likes would violate the current
    Facebook promotion guidelines. In addition, it could potentially affect
    the legality of your promotion under federal and state giveaway/contest
    laws.

    You can not do any type of giveaway ON Facebook, the rules are very
    clear about that. You would need to use a 3rd party app as required by
    the new guidelines. By using an app in a tab you can limit who can see
    it to those who like your page

    Compliance with giveaway laws would also be needed if you were to do a sweepstakes or contest.”

    -and-

    “yes sharing the post on Facebook would be a permitted optional entry. However, the entrant must then return to YOUR blog post and indicate somehow – whether through a comment or an embedded app – that they did share. Sharing, alone, would not likely be sufficient.”

    I trust this author most because she’s an attorney in real life.

    http://www.savingforsomeday.com/blog-law-facebook-promotion-guidelines-updated/

  • Danette Lykins

    Thank you for spelling it out for us- in a “cliff notes” kinda way! so much easier to understand, than trying to read through all the legal jargon! :)

  • http://jershaanddup.com/ Jessica

    “Is it legal to force someone to ‘like’ your page before entering a contest?”By Facebook’s rules, yes. By the FTC’s rules, probably not. It could be construed as “consideration” which then changes your giveaway into a lottery. I would suggest NOT making any “actionable” entries mandatory.

    http://contests.about.com/od/c/g/consideration.htm 

  • TheMFP

    When I click the link to the iFrame I get the following message: The webpage at https://srv.dominjon.net/Static-iFrame/ might be temporarily down or it may have moved permanently to a new web address.
    Error 501 (net::ERR_INSECURE_RESPONSE): Unknown error.

    • http://www.naturebox.com/ NatureBox

      I am getting the same error- is this an iFrame problem?

  • Ronald12332

    are we allowed to post a picture of a promotion in my shop? lets see i am annoucing i have 50% this week…. Also are we allowed to post prices under the images? or maybe in a status e.g: “Get you jack for 100$ instead of 50$… please help. thanks!

  • TFE

    can someone explain to me the difference between rule 3 and 4? i am confused… can i say on my facebook business page that the winner will be someone who refers the most new fans to my facebook page? can i say that new fans should let me know who referred them trough business email (avoiding to ask them to post on my wall)… and if i mention that only my business responsible for my give away and that facebook has nothing to do with it, would it be ok?

  • adrian

    very important! please reply fast! can i make a “check-in and get giveaways” competition or is this ilegal as well??

  • Sarah Yoder

    Great Post! Thanks for the information!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ajillhill Amanda Jill Hill

    Great article! Thanks for clarifying :)

  • Amanda

    great post and advise!

  • MalisaT

    hi, i am planning to do a giveaway on fb but it’s only going to be between me and my friends on my fb. no like page or fan page. i will be buying the item at the store and giving it away by choosing my friends who join randomly. I will also post a video on fb how i choose the winner by using random.org and also i will be inviting them by using the event part. is it okay to go forward with the giveaway? i am not promoting any prodect that i am buying or have a 3rd party. please please please do let me know. thank you

  • zahid

    Thanks for sharing this nice article. Good work. Also get more like this at http://com-names.blogspot.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000462881383 Adrian Leung

    What can I do about a contest that is announced on Facebook that sends you to the entry form on their page where you pick the winners of sports games and even though I score high enough to be a winner, they report the winners to be someone other than me? I’ve managed to screen shot my entries by printing the before/after I hit the submit button to a pdf file. I also keep a log of my weekly picks on an excel spreadsheet. I’ve contested it with them and they tell me their “system” does not have me in the top 3. I can prove that I’ve scored high enough to be in the top 3 in 3 out of the 8 weeks of this contest. Now they’ve blocked me from posting on the wall.

  • David Shedlock

    I’m an author – can I post on my wall the statement that the 50th share of this (and only that person) post will receive a copy of my book, free. The wall post also tells them how to buy the book.

  • Deb

    Are auctions, where goods are listed for sale to the highest bidder, within fb guidelines?